Can Weed Help You Sleep? Yes, But It's Complicated
Learn by Kate Ryan
Nov 18, 2019 · 8 min read

It's all about figuring out what's keeping you up at night and finding the right cannabinoid ratio from there.

You’ve likely been warned that missing out on a solid eight hours of sleep is a recipe for disaster—and for good reason. Beyond obvious consequences like irritability, drowsiness, and slow reaction times, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says consistently skimping on sleep increases your chance of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. While we sleep, our bodies produce the hormones needed to help us build muscle mass, repair cells, and prevent infection. Point being, sleep provides us with a lot more than wacky dreams.

Still, most of us aren’t getting enough of it. So what’s a sleep-deprived person to do?

First, the basics

This is a cannabis platform, so naturally we’re going to talk about the sleep-enhancing benefits of weed. But to maximize the benefits of any product you use, we need to start with the basics first—AKA lifestyle changes. Effective yet annoyingly difficult to achieve, a regular nighttime routine is the best gift you can give your sleeping self. Doctors recommend figuring out your ideal bedtime and wake-up time and sticking to it—whether it’s a workday, the weekend, or the morning after a particularly active Mardis Gras.

Determining the root cause of your sleeplessness will help narrow down your options.

The next biggest culprit? Your afternoon iced coffee. Caffeine is sleep’s greatest buzzkill because it blocks adenosine, a chemical and natural sleep signal our bodies produce throughout the day. Normally, that chemical builds up enough “sleep pressure” to help you doze off after about 16 waking hours; but caffeine lets your body think you’ve only been awake for six, throwing a chemical wrench in the bedtime routine you’ve so carefully cultivated. Chemical disruptions like this are also why late-night gym rats could benefit from pumping iron earlier in the day, and those who enjoy a glass of wine (or three) before bed should opt for a cup of chamomile instead. Lastly—and this should go without saying—ditch your phone and dim the lights before bed. There will be plenty of memes to scroll through in the morning.

Next stop, sleep-specific cannabis

So, you’ve set yourself up for success and still need a little nudge toward sleepiness. As opposed to pharmaceutical options, which can be habit-forming and possibly linked to higher rates of cancer, cannabis is an effective, relatively natural alternative. But before you start trying everything on dispensary shelves, it’s helpful to first identify the root of the problem. Is pain keeping you up at night? Or are you having trouble shutting your brain off after working late? Determining the root cause of your sleeplessness will help narrow down your options.

Trade in pain for zzz's

Studies show cannabinoids can help with chronic pain, muscle spasms, and nausea, and CBD specifically provides relief without the psychoactive effects that come with THC—as in, you won’t feel stoned. Anecdotally, a high enough dose of CBD can leave you feeling sleepy, too. Ingesting this cannabinoid via an edible, tincture, dab, or vape pen can deliver pain-relieving and mentally soothing effects, while topicals work best for surface-level aches and pains.

Convert your weight into kilograms and begin with 0.25mg of CBD per kilo of body weight.

Even though CBD won’t get you traditionally high, finding your perfect dose will still require some trial and error. Dr. Hervé Damas, a former NFL player and physician who specializes in cannabis medicine, says, “CBD can begin to cause somnolence in as little as 20mg depending on the individual.” His best bet for figuring out your starting dose? Convert your weight into kilograms and begin with 0.25mg of CBD per kilo of body weight. So, if you’re 140 pounds, start with a dose of 15mg of CBD and work your way up from there. “This will help you find the threshold that works best for you,” says Dr. Damas. “Most people start somewhere between 30-50mg, but again, this is all dependent on the individual. I have patients who are former football players who require upwards of 100mg to induce sleep.”

Proper Cannabis Committee (PCC) rater and CBD educator Anna Symonds adds that while these relatively high doses of CBD can help you fall asleep, lower doses (we’re talking 5-10mg) may actually perk you up. It’s true that one 2014 study linked CBD with wakefulness among some users; and while this effect was mild, you’re best off experimenting on the weekend or other low-stakes time to see how it affects you personally.

Take anxiety out of the routine

Why negative thought spirals love to sync up with bedtime, we don’t know. Luckily, there’s high-quality cannabis designed for that very problem. You may have heard that indicas—AKA “couchlock” strains—are notoriously sedative, and it’s true that high-quality, lab-tested strains containing high levels of myrcene, a terpene known for inducing sleepy vibes, will help you snooze. That said, not all flower labeled “indica” is guaranteed to leave you glued to the couch in the same way a pre-roll labeled “sativa” might not have you bouncing off the walls.

Knowing what you’re getting is half the battle when it comes to crushing bedtime anxiety.

Growers have been remixing and cross-breeding cannabis strains for decades, which is why you’ll be hardpressed to find a true indica or sativa. This also explains why the bulk bin Blue Dream flower you picked up last week may be a far cry from the batch you pick up this week. Branded products designed specifically for sleep are more likely to give you a satisfying, consistent experience because their reputation rests on it. And knowing what you’re getting is half the battle when it comes to crushing bedtime anxiety.

As for the products themselves, you’re going to want something that’s equally calming as it is sedating. Peter Barsoom, 1906’s CEO, recommends that for those suffering from anxiety, “high doses of CBD with a low dose of THC a few hours before bed may be just what is needed to calm the mind and prepare for bed.” With this in mind, 1906 developed their Midnight product, a chocolate with 5mg of CBD, 5mg of THC, and herbal extracts that induce sleepiness. Alternatively, Papa and Barkley’s 30:1 CBD:THC Releaf Capsule and kikoko’s Sympa-Tea are both great options for those who are hesitant to try THC.

If edibles aren’t your thing, AiroPro’s Northern Lights vape cartridge is a fan favorite among PCC raters for its ability to provide full-body relaxation. Bloom Farms’ Nighttime PAX Era Pod is also a good option for those nights you need to forget about to-do lists and get the heck to bed. Of course, low-dose users can’t go wrong with dosist’s all-in-one sleep pen, which buzzes when you’ve consumed one full dose so you don’t accidentally overdo it.

A few final tips

If you’re scrambling to get to bed and need something fast-acting, smokeable products (we’re talking vapes, joints, flower, concentrates) are the way to go. With an average onset time of 10 to 15 minutes, you should feel sleepy in no time. Your second fastest route would be sublinguals, which have an average onset of about 20 to 40 minutes when dosed correctly. If you’ve got time to spare, edibles are the way to go. They take longer to kick in—you’re looking at an hour or two—but they’ll help you stay asleep once they do because the high can last several hours. As the weedy maxim goes, the quicker in, the quicker out.

The trick with any cannabis product is to avoid overdoing it. A high-THC edible could help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but too much of a good thing can leave you feeling groggy the next morning. As Barsoom attests, “Dosing is absolutely critical when it comes to using cannabis for sleep. High levels of THC have been shown to reduce time spent in REM sleep so when it comes to cannabis use for restful sleep, less is more.” If you’re brand new to edibles, start with a low dose of approximately 5mg of THC at least an hour before bed. Similarly, take only a couple 2-second pulls of that vape and wait 15 minutes before consuming more.

No matter which route you go, do yourself a solid and keep track of how you feel. Leave a notepad on your bedside table or set a reminder on your phone so you can jot down a few notes the morning after. Feeling groggy? Consume less THC next time. Did you wake up halfway through the night? Consider an edible or slightly up your dose. Feeling fresh as a daisy? Remember what you took and stick with it! Going about it this way, you’ll be able to adjust accordingly and find your sleepy sweet spot. It just may change your life—or at least the two-thirds you’re awake for. 

For our full catalog of sleepy cannabis products, visit our sleep effect page

Or check out our guides to the best vapes for falling asleep and the best edibles for staying asleep.

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Papa & Barkley30:1 CBD:THC Releaf Capsules - 7 Count